Ayub Khan, the carpenter, worked for Reena’s parents when she was a child. Now, decades later, he still comes and works for her. He is old and eccentric but has not lost his physical prowess nor his jugaadpan, the ability to find workable solutions.
However, he is set in certain ways.
The last time Ayub Khan had been over, Reena’s husband Anand had wanted a precious painting hung from the drawing room wall. He advised Ayub Khan to use a drill machine and a rawl plug to make sure that the painting hung well and secure. Ayub Khan categorically told him that such a nail would shake free soon enough and the painting would surely fall. He did not want to be responsible for such damage. Anand had given up.
“I bow to your craftsmanship,” he said.
So Ayub Khan had hammered a hole in the wall using a thick nail, then chipped away on a piece of wood to fashion a wooden gutti that he hammered into the hole, then put a nail through this gutti. From this secured nail, the painting would hang, never to fall. No plastic rawl plug could replace his wooden gutti, and no drill machine could replace his hammer and chisel.
For the last week, Ayub Khan is at large in Reena’s home, to make some wood frames for the balcony, to which he will attach chicken wire, to keep the pigeons out. The pigeons are a menace, sitting on the washing line and shitting on the clothes hung out to dry.
He has made the frames, stretched the chicken wire across them, and now has to place and fix the frames onto the iron railing on the lower end and the concrete roof at the top end of the balcony.
“How will you do this?” asks Reena.
“Simply,” he says, not batting an eyelid, “I will use a hammer drill.”
“You will?” Reena raises eyebrows. “Simply?”
“Just organize a double ladder for me please.”
That settles that, she thinks, when her gaze falls on the table top he has finished laminating. It looks like a wounded soldier with white masking tape all along the edges.
“This table …” Reena points at it.
“Yes, behenji? It is done.”
“What happened to all the tiny nails you used to place all around the sides and turn in to keep the laminate in place?” Reena asks.
“Oh no, behnji, that is all old stuff. I put this tape, and after 24 hours, you remove it. Your laminate is all set. I don’t need to come to remove the nails. This is fast and clean work.”
“Haan,” Reena says, “I guess so.”
“No guessing, I know ji ,” he says. “ Humey pataa hai ji … what this is … technaalaji.”
He nods vehemently. His hennaed hair is sprung orange wire, hitting a yellow, weathered face. He is wise and with technology.
published 22 May 2013